Considering I wasn't able to write a cohesive article following the Rockets and Hornets game, I thought would go the lazy sportswriter route with a simple, yet hopefully effective, notes and observations piece. We'll see.
(Disclaimer: Keep in mind, I realize I'm relying on small sample sizes and these "trends" could mean absolutely nothing.)
1. Six of our last seven opponents have scored under 100 points:
I remember the days when I lamented our mediocre defense. In the last seven games, the Spurs have posted a rather impressive aggregate defensive efficiency of 94.2 while allowing a measly .476 effective field-goal percentage. As you all know I'm for arbitrary predictors of future success (just kidding, but they are still interesting nonetheless), but if we had played that quality of defense for the entire season, they would rank second in defensive efficiency behind the Philadelphia 76ers and rank 13th in defensive eFG%. Considering the Spurs were ranked 23rd in DefEff four days ago, this is rather surprising and hopefully this stretch of palatable defensive basketball will be a much more reliable predictor than the first 18 games of the season (unlikely, but we can hope). Either way ... I'm pleasantly surprised that a team that relies on DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner for extended minutes can have some semblance of success in that regard.
2. The Spurs are defending the rim:
If you can defend the most efficient shot in basketball consistently, then defense becomes that much easier. I have no idea why this seven game stretch is producing so many anomalies. It could be just a ridiculously small sample size (that's probably it), but being the inquisitive writer that I am, I wanted to at least see how the Spurs are defending the rim and running off three-point shooters. In the last seven games, the Spurs have allowed 18.4 field-goal attempts at the rim (which would be good for 1st) and teams have only shot .581. The average FG% from the rim is .630. If this trend continues, then that'll only increase my already irrational level of enthusiasm. Is it too early to start ordering 2011-12 NBA Champion shirts?
3. Opposing teams are shooting a lot from 16-23 feet:
I mentioned this in my previous piece. While my theory is certainly not innovative (I'm sure it's been mentioned frequently), I have enjoyed searching through the data to continue to see a reoccurring trend in our tendencies. And I love when I'm right because it makes me feel like my basketball opinion matters. But I digress. In the last seven games (I'm really tired of typing this by now), teams have averaged 26.9 attempts from 16-23 feet and have only produced an assist 43-percent of the time in that span. While they are still converting these shots (.436), I'm still strong in my belief that their FG% will inevitably lower as our sample size increases. Teams can only knock down so many inefficient long jumpers before the defense starts winning that battle. It's only a matter of time.
4. Anticipating the Manu-Splitter pick-and-roll:
Unfortunately, the TP-Splitter pick-and-roll took a brief hiatus against OKC. But when Splitter is converting on around .733 of his PnR cuts (according to Synergy which I am not subscribed), then imagine how much fun Spurs fans are in for when Manu, whose innate PnR prowess is incredible, starts connecting with Splitter. I cannot contain my excitement.
5. Now for an interesting player comparison, adjusted for 36 minutes (per Basketball Reference):
Tony Parker- 19.3 PTS, 3.1 TRB, 8.2 AST, 1.1 STL, 0.3 3PM, 7.6-16.7 FG-FGA, .463 eFG%, .512 true shooting percentage, 27.7 usage rate, 40.3 AST%, 2.7 win shares, .154 WS/48, 21.1 PER
Kyle Lowry- 14.8 PTS, 6.2 TRB, 8.2 AST, 2.0 STL, 1.6 3PM, 4.7-12.0 FG-FGA, .458 eFG%, .530 TS%, 21.3 USG%, 34.8 AST%, 2.7 WS, .167 WS/48, 19.8 PER,
I might be in the minority here but I actually do not want to see TP make the All-Star game. Considering how much basketball he's played (he certainly isn't a "young" 29-years-old if that makes any sense) and will be expected to play as we continue to toil through LWM, I rather have him stay at home and relax rather than endure a meaningless game. That's a little pessimistic and I'm probably overreacting, but that's my vantage point. Lowry, who has TP beat in TRB, AST, STL, 3PM and WS/48, would be a welcome addition to the All-Star game. Really. I'm not crazy here.